China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 35 | Freedom House

China Media Bulletin: Issue No. 35

Freedom House’s weekly update of press freedom and censorship news related to the People’s Republic of China

Issue No. 35: October 6, 2011

* Jailed Nobel winner allowed to mourn father, wife still confined
* Alibaba mulls Yahoo purchase
* Chinese activist in Taiwan opens online democracy school
* Communist Party journal to launch English site; U.S. Senate preserves VOA funding
* Dalai Lama scraps South Africa trip over visa delay

Printable version



State TV changes look to win viewers

On September 25, the nightly newscast of state-run broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), Xinwen Lianbo, introduced two new presenters, Ouyang Xiadan and Lang Yongchun, in an apparent attempt to boost its declining viewer ratings as it competes with popular entertainment programs aired by provincial television stations. Instead of being handpicked by the Chinese Communist Party, the two anchors were selected through an open audition. According to the China Media Project, "the changes are more cosmetic than substantive." The main role of the program continues to be conveying the party line and providing updates on the activities of top leaders. An op-ed article on the Hunan provincial government's news website "Red Net" criticized the CCTV alterations. It said the station's strategic plan was based merely on web opinion and observation of foreign television channels, and urged Xinwen Lianbo to maintain its role as a conduit for "objective and accurate messages" from the authorities.

* China Media Project 9/26/2011 (in Chinese): CCTV nightly news gets a successful 'makeover' with quality news reporting <>


Jailed Nobel winner allowed to mourn father, wife still confined

Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese democracy advocate who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, was permitted to briefly leave prison on September 18. According to his brother, Liu was allowed to attend a mourning ritual in Dalian, Liaoning Province, for his father, who had died seven days earlier. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December 2009 for "subversion," after he coauthored the prodemocracy manifesto Charter 08. His temporary release, though a minimal concession, is unusual for political prisoners in China and likely a reflection of the international pressure on the Chinese government to treat Liu humanely. Meanwhile, the dissident's wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest without telephone or internet access since Liu was announced as the Nobel winner on October 8, 2010. According to Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, her harsh treatment as a family member of an award recipient is "unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize."

* Agence France-Presse 10/4/2011: China's Nobel winner leaves jail briefly <>
* Associated Press 10/2/2011: Jailed China Nobel winner's wife still silenced <


Controversy erupts over Confucius Peace Prize

Controversy erupted last week as two rival entities, both of which are loosely affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, sparred over the management of a Confucius-themed peace prize. The Traditional Culture Protection Department had initiated a Confucius Peace Prize in 2010, in response to the announcement of jailed democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize. The inaugural Confucius prize was awarded to a Taiwanese politician, who said he was not informed of the decision by the organizers and did not attend the award ceremony. As it prepared to announce the second winner, the group was forced by the Ministry of Culture to disband on September 27, as it had not received permission to issue the prize or hold a September 17 press conference. Meanwhile, the China Foundation for the Development of Social Culture, which apparently has closer ties to the Ministry of Culture, is reportedly planning to present its own Confucius World Peace Prize inDecember. Among the candidates are German chancellor Angela Merkel, South African president Jacob Zuma, and a young Tibetan man whom the Chinese government identified as the Panchen Lama in 1995 after the abduction of a candidate chosen by the Dalai Lama.

* New York Times 10/1/2011: Competing Confucius Award bares discord in China <>


State-run daily decries U.S. media 'blackout' on Wall St. protests

The state-run newspaper China Daily ran an article on September 30 that was critical of the American media. The paper's New York–based deputy editor, Chen Weihua, accused major U.S. news outlets of downplaying coverage of the growing "Occupy Wall Street" protest movement centered in New York City, claiming that the "blackout" was inconsistent with their enthusiastic reporting of antigovernment demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa. Noting that leading American news outlets are owned by large corporations, Chen said U.S. journalists have failed to fulfill their responsibility to speak for the "voiceless in their society." In fact, after U.S. media were criticized domestically for their limited coverage of the small initial protests, reporting increased, and by the time of the editorial's release, hundreds of U.S. news outlets had covered the protests and the police response. By contrast, Chinese authorities have imprisoned even ordinary netizens who spread information about calls in early 2011 for "Jasmine Revolution" protests that never resulted in actual demonstrations (see CMB No. 32). Chinese blogger Yang Hengjun posted his own response to the editorial, criticizing it as ill-conceived: "For a paper like China Daily, supported by taxpayers, to publish such an irresponsible editorial-well, … if you blatantly lie and deceive to this degree, that reflects badly on China's government! It reflects badly on the Chinese people! It is completely shameful!"
* China Daily 9/30/2011: US media blackout of protest is shameful <>
* China Media Project 10/6/2011: Biased China Daily editorial shames China <>
* CNN 9/17/2011: Wall Street protesters inspired by Arab Spring movement <>


Reporter allegedly pressured to refute 'New York Times' article

A September 23 New York Times article by Andrew Jacobs reported that journalist Ji Xuguang of the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily was "detained" over his exposé of a sex-slave case implicating a former civil servant (see CMB No. 34). However, on September 25, Ji refuted Jacobs on his microblog account. He said he was only questioned and accused of revealing a "state secret" by police in the Henan Province city of Luoyang, where the scandal occurred, but was not taken into custody. To clarify the issue, Jacobs said his research assistant had called Ji and explained that "detained" did not necessarily mean he was taken away, only that he was not free to leave his questioners. Their conversation reportedly revealed that Ji had publicly refuted the article as a result of official pressure. He said he was "hauled out of bed" in the early morning by his boss and told that the authorities had accused him of using the New York Times to exaggerate the news. The Luoyang authorities on September 24 made an apology for not making the sex-slave case public quickly enough, and four officers were sacked over the incident.

* Index on Censorship 9/28/2011: Detained reporter refutes New York Times article <>
* Sina Weibo 9/25/2011 (in Chinese): Ji Xuguang's microblog account <>
* China Digital Times 9/28/2011: Journalist denies arrest, TV wrongly identifies suspect in Luoyang sex slave case <>



Netizen population has passed 500 million, official says

Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office and also chief of the new State Internet Information Office, announced on September 29 that China's internet users now number more than 500 million, placing the country's internet penetration rate close to 40 percent. According to the latest official figures from the Statistical Report on Internet Development in China, as of the end of June, about 27 percent of China's netizens lived in rural areas-roughly the same share of the total as in late 2010, despite a 4.9 percent increase in the actual number of rural users. Meanwhile, users older than 50 increased from 5.8 percent to 7.2 percent of the overall netizen population. Search engines remain the most popular network application, followed by instant messaging and online music databases. Use of blog applications grew by as much as 208.9 percent, with the addition of 132 million users in half a year. Although China is home to the world's largest population of internet users, the Chinese Communist Party has developed the world's most comprehensive, multilayered apparatus for controlling online communications, including on political, social, and human rights issues.

* China Daily 9/29/2011: China internet users exceed 500 million <>
* China Internet Network Information Center 7/1/2011: State Statistical Report on Internet Development in China <>


Dog meat festival canceled after online protest

The Jinhua Hutou Dog Meat Festival, a 600-year-old local tradition in Zhejiang Province that features the slaughter of thousands of dogs for their meat, was canceled on September 19 after online protests. The festival dates back to the 14th century, when a general battling rebels ordered all the dogs in the town to be killed after their barking warned the rebels of his army's approach. The emperor later arranged a dog meat banquet for the general, whose forces won the battle. A microblog post with photographs of bloody and cooked dogs taken at past festivals emerged in early September, enraging Chinese netizens. Their outcry soon gathered momentum as many local celebrities made reposts on their Sina Weibo microblog accounts, which are followed by millions of readers. The Chinese Communist Party has taken steps to increase control over the country's microblogging services, but Weibo continues to funnel web opinion into public pressure, particularly on issues, such as the dog meat festival, that are not seen as threatening to the government.

* New York Times 9/29/2011: Dog meat festival is cancelled in China <>
* Global Times 9/20/2011: Dogs spared from dinner death <>


Alibaba mulls Yahoo purchase

According to the Wall Street Journal, the chief executive of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Jack Ma, said last week that he was "interested" in buying web-portal operator Yahoo! Inc., though he and company spokespeople refused to comment further. A few days later, reports emerged that Alibaba, the private equity firm Silver Lake, and Russia's Digital Sky Technologies were considering a possible joint bid for Yahoo, whose board is currently reviewing its strategy after firing chief executive Carol Bartz last month. An acquisition of Yahoo would increase Ma's control over Alibaba, since he sold a 40 percent stake in the company to Yahoo six years ago. If completed, such a deal would mark one of the largest purchases of a U.S. operation by a Chinese company. However, any bid could face opposition from U.S. regulators given Yahoo's crucial role in U.S. communications systems like e-mail and instant messaging, and the large number of cyberattacks and cyberespionage targeting U.S. government and corporate facilities that have allegedly been traced to China. Although Alibaba is privately owned and more than three million U.S. small businesses use its services for commerce with China, there is concern that as a Chinese company, it would have trouble resisting Chinese government requests for sensitive information. Yahoo itself has encountered legal problems after conveying information to Chinese security agencies that contributed to the jailing of a journalist and democracy activists.

* Wall Street Journal 10/3/2011: Alibaba casts eyes on Yahoo <>
* San Francisco Chronicle 10/5/2011: Yahoo's potential buyers included Alibaba <>



Dalai Lama scraps South Africa trip over visa delay

On October 4, the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, cancelled a planned trip to South Africa when it became evident that his visa would not be approved in time. Visa applications for him and his entourage were reportedly submitted to the South African embassy in India at the end of August. As the date of his trip approached and he had not yet been granted approval by the South African government, raising suspicions of Chinese pressure, the Tibetan leader canceled the trip. Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, who had invited the Dalai Lama to deliver the inaugural peace lecture at his 80th birthday celebration, blasted the South African government, comparing it to the apartheid regime. South African officials insisted that they did not bow to Chinese pressure to block the visa process. However, the proximity of the previous week's visit by South African vice president Kgalema Motlanthe to Beijing, where he met with Chinese president Hu Jintao to discuss bolstering ties between the two countries, fueled speculation about a connection between the two incidents. South Africa granted the Dalai Lama visas in 1996, 1999, and 2004. However, in 2009, when China became South Africa's largest trading partner, his visa application was denied. Tutu and others condemned the latest incident as a "disgrace." As an alternative to the peace lecture, Tutu invited the Dalai Lama to hold a public dialogue with him via video link on October 8. South Africa is rated Partly Free in Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2011 survey.

* Citizen Online 10/5/2011: Tutu proposes Dalai Lama via video <>
* Agence France Presse 10/7/2011: Tutu's visa appeal for Dalai Lama rejected <>
* CNN 10/4/2011: Dalai Lama scraps trip to South Africa, Tutu lashes out <>
* Freedom of the Press 2011: South Africa <//>


Photos indicate abuse of Mongolia writer in detention

On September 29, the New York–based Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center (SMHPIC) reported that Govruud Huuchinhuu, an ethnic Mongolian dissident writer, has suffered harassment and severe beatings while in detention in Tongliao, Inner Mongolia. Huuchinhuu was placed under house arrest in November 2010, admitted to a hospital in December with severe headaches, then kept in arbitrary detention after her discharge in January 2011. SMHPIC received pictures of Huuchinhuu-dated between July 20 and July 30-that show a swollen contusion on her forehead and fresh bruises on her elbow and around her eyes, suggesting that she has been beaten multiple times by the police. Huuchinhuu is a member of the banned Southern Mongolia Democratic Alliance (SMDA). She has written numerous political essays criticizing the Chinese government's ethnic policies in Inner Mongolia, and two books that were banned by the Chinese authorities. She has assisted in running online Mongolian discussion forums that have been shut down for carrying "separatist content" and "discussing ethnic problems." Huuchinhuu's initial house arrest in 2010 was prompted by her efforts to rally support online for SMDA chief Hada ahead of his scheduled release after a 15-year prison term. Hada and his family remain in custody (see CMB No. 29).

* Radio Free Asia 9/29/2011: Dissident suffers beatings in detention <>



Vietnam trial of China radio operators postponed

Vietnamese authorities on October 6 postponed the Hanoi trial, scheduled to begin that day, of Vietnamese citizens Vu Duc Trung and Nguyen Van Thanh, who were charged with "transmitting information illegally onto the telecommunications network" (see CMB No. 17). They had set up a shortwave radio station in April 2009 and broadcast Chinese-language news from the Falun Gong–affiliated Sound of Hope radio network into China, including on topics such as human rights abuses and the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. The Chinese embassy in Hanoi had sent memos to the Vietnamese authorities in May 2010, warning that Trung and Thanh's activities could damage bilateral relations. Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House issued alerts raising concerns about the trial and the threat it posed to Vietnamese citizens' freedom of expression. The Falun Dafa Information Center reported on October 6 that when the pair's lawyer, witnesses, and other observers arrived at the courthouse, it was suddenly announced that the trial had been postponed. The trial date had been postponed at the last minute once before in April, apparently due to international pressure. The pair remain in custody and could be tried at any time. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese authorities have stepped up intimidation of the small Falun Gong community in the country in recent weeks, including brief detentions and beatings. Vietnam is rated Not Free in Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2011 survey.

* Freedom House 10/5/2011: Bowing to Chinese pressure, Vietnam places Falun Gong radio broadcasters on trial <//>
* Reporters Without Borders 10/5/2011: Two citizen journalists facing jail sentences for operating pirate radio <,41130.html>
* Epoch Times 9/29/2011: Vietnam to try pair for broadcasting into China <>
* Falun Dafa Information Center: Urgent appeal update: Falun Gong trial in Vietnam postponed, but dozens detained at Chinese consulate, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders denounces trial <>


Chinese activist in Taiwan opens online democracy school

Wang Dan, a prominent Chinese democracy advocate and former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, launched an online school at a ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan, on October 1. The opening was scheduled to coincide with the national day of the People's Republic of China, which marks the Communist Party's rise to power. The "New School for Democracy" will offer internet lectures related to human rights and democracy in Taiwan and China. The courses listed on the website included topics like Chinese history, democracy and media, the theory and practice of human rights, and citizen journalism. Acknowledging that Beijing would likely block access to the New School for mainland users, Wang said its web-based platform would enable overseas Chinese and mainlanders equipped with circumvention tools to learn about democracy. According to the Taipei Times, the school was registered in Hong Kong, where it received most of its funding. Joining Wang on the initiative are prodemocracy legislators from Hong Kong, scholars in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and overseas Chinese democracy advocates. One Chinese exchange student attending the opening ceremony in Taipei said he had little knowledge of what happened in 1989 before coming to Taiwan, adding, "I hope this virtual world can make a dent in China's political reality, so that everyone can have access to the most basic aspects of democracy."

* Taipei Times 10/2/2011: Wang Dan launches democracy school <>
* China Post 10/2/2011: Dissident fights PRC in web school <>
* New School for Democracy: <>


Communist Party journal to launch English site; U.S. Senate preserves VOA funding

On October 1, Seeking Truth (Qiushi), the journal of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), launched its English-language website. The mission of the English site is to "carry out the 'Going Global' strategy of central government media. It will further enable the publications of the Party's central organs to improve their influence by timely and effectively broadcasting China's voice to the world." Among the top articles on the site is "90 Years of Glory: The Progressiveness and Leadership of the CPC [Communist Party of China]." The top "recommended" article is titled "Guidelines for Constantly Creating New Horizons for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics." Meanwhile, to counterbalance the CCP's aggressive international media expansion, on September 22 the U.S Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted to include funding for China broadcasting in the markup of the State Department's 2012 appropriations bill. The funds would be used to continue shortwave broadcasting into China, with content including news that is censored by the authorities and explanations of U.S. government policies for Chinese audiences. The committee's action overturned a February decision by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors to shut down Voice of America's radio and television broadcasts to China while continuing its Chinese service online, a move that had prompted an outcry from Voice of America staff and Chinese democracy activists.

* Qiushi Theory 9/30/2011: Qiushi launches English edition <>
* Qiushi Journal Online <>
* Heritage Foundation 9/30/2011: Senate overrules BBG on VOA broadcasts <>


U.S. lawmakers urge effort to stop Chinese cyberattacks

On October 4, Michael Rogers, a Republican U.S. congressman from Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the U.S. government to work with allies in Europe and Asia as well as in international forums to stop China-based cyberattacks. At a hearing on cyberattacks and national security, he said the high level of sophistication of such attacks indicate that they are "supported by a nation-state entity," and argued that they had "reached an intolerable level." He noted that many targeted companies in the United States have remained silent for fear of jeopardizing their businesses or provoking further attacks. Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said at the hearing that from his perspective as a professional intelligence officer, the persistence and sophistication of Chinese espionage efforts against the United States were "stunning." Remedies suggested at the hearing included initiating a case at the World Trade Organization, releasing details of cases with strong evidence of official Chinese involvement, and expelling any diplomatic attaché who is found to have been involved in espionage. Chinese officials vociferously deny government involvement in cyberattacks, but a clip on state-run television in July showed a Chinese military computer program being used to attack a website on Falun Gong that was hosted at an Alabama university.

* Washington Post 10/5/2011: Lawmaker calls for international pressure to stop China's cyber-espionage <>
*Washington Post 8/22/2011: Chinese denials about cyber-attacks undermined by video clip <>
* YouTube 7/16/2011:  CCTV cyber technology 2011-7-16 internet storm is here/internet warfare 2/2 <>


Chinese and UK governments host internet roundtable

On September 29, China's State Council Information Office (SCIO) and the UK Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills convened the Fourth UK-China Internet Roundtable, a two-day event on web security, mobile internet, and digital intellectual-property protection in Beijing. According to state-run Xinhua news agency, more than a hundred representatives from the two countries attended. Among them were Wang Chen, head of SCIO and also chief of the new State Internet Information Office; British minister of culture, media, and sport Edward Vaizey; and industry leaders such as Stephen Crisp of Nokia-Siemens, Llias Chantzos of Symantec, and Pierre Cheung of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). During his opening remarks, Wang noted the importance of "sovereign jurisdictions" over the internet in various countries, and urged other countries to refrain from using "network freedom" to seek "network hegemony." Wang has been known in the past for his speeches calling for tighter government censorship and real-name registration online and for mobile telephones. Stories aggregated on Google News that related to the conference, whose aim was in part to boost international recognition of the Chinese government's internet regulation policies, were all produced by Xinhua.

* China Daily 9/29/2011: The Fourth UK-China Internet Roundtable <>
* Human Rights In China 4/29/2010: Concerning the development and administration of our country's internet <>